Peyton Manning has Byron Maxwell's name and number, and he'll be gunning for him on Sunday when the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
The bull's eye painted on his No. 41 jersey will be nothing new for Maxwell, a third-year pro and former sixth round draft pick out of Clemson who is the most inexperienced defensive back in Seattle's co-called 'Legion of Boom.'
Since he stepped into the Seahawks' lineup eight weeks ago after the suspension of a teammate, he's been picked on by a string of rival quarterbacks, including New Orleans' Drew Brees, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, and the New York Giants' Eli Manning.
Four interceptions and 10 PBUs later, Maxwell has solidified his spot in what may be the NFL's best secondary.
On Sunday, he'll make the eighth start of his NFL career, matching his total from his five years at Clemson.
As Clemson SID Tim Bourret has noted, Maxwell was a career backup until his senior season, when he started eight games for the Tigers:
"Maxwell has a history of patience and it has paid off at the NFL level. Ranked as the #40 high school player in the nation by ESPN.com for the Clemson signee class of 2006, he suffered a torn ACL his senior year of high school and sat out the 2006 season at Clemson.
"He became Clemson's best special teams player and reliable back up for the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons, then started eight games in 2010. In April of 2011 he was a sixth round draft choice of the Seahawks, the 173rd player taken."
Maxwell has followed much the same pattern with the Seahawks, making the 53-man roster as a rookie and contributing as a backup and special teams player before making his breakthrough as a starter this season.
He has fit right in, and earned the praise of his coaches and teammates, for a defense that never skipped a beat after losing starter Brandon Browner to injury and Walter Thurmond to suspension.
"Byron plays with so much confidence and he’s such a good player,” Seahawks safety Chris Maragos told the team's official website. “He’s got the prototypical body you want in a corner (6 feet 1, 207 pounds). He tackles well. He covers well. He runs well. He’s really playing really, really well.”
“Byron has really taken off,” said Kris Richard, who played cornerback for the Seahawks (2002-04) and now is in his fourth season of coaching what has become the best and deepest secondary in the NFL. “But it’s fitting, because of the way he’s handled himself and the type of character he has. I couldn’t be happier for a better person.”
On Sunday, Maxwell is likely to be tested like never before by Manning and 6-3, 215-pound wideout Eric Decker, who Maxwell will likely match up against in man coverage from his cornerback position. Decker is generally Denver's No. 2 receiving option, but has a wealth of experience, with 3,259 yards and 33 touchdown receptions in his four NFL seasons.
The Bleacher Report tabs the Maxwell-Decker match-up as one of the keys to the outcome of the Super Bowl.
The former Tiger will go back to work on Sunday, just as he's done for the past eight years, awaiting his chance to make game-changing plays.
“I know I’m unproven," Maxwell said recently. "I’ve got an All-Pro corner on the other side. Everybody is the secondary is pretty much Pro Bowlers. “I’m the only unproven one out there. So they’re going to come at me. It’s opportunities, really, and I’m just trying to take advantage of it.”
How The Seahawks Built Their Team
2007 — DT Brandon Mebane 3rd.
2008 — DE Red Bryant 4th.
2009 — C Max Unger 2nd.
2010 — OT Russell Okung 1st-A; S Earl Thomas 1st-B; WR Golden Tate 2nd; CB Walter Thurmond 4th-A; S Ken Chancellor 5th.
2011 — G James Carpenter 1st; LB K.J. Wright 4th-A; CB Richard Sherman 5th-A; CB Byron Maxwell 6th; LB Malcolm Smith 7th-B.
2012 — LB Bruce Irvin 1st; LB Bobby Wagner 2nd; QB Russell Wilson 3rd; RB Robert Turbin 4th-A; CB Jeremy Lane 6th-A; G J.R. Sweezy 7th-A.
2103 — Christine Michael 2nd; DT Jordan Hill 3rd; TE Luke Willson 5th-C; OT Michael Bowie 7th-D.
2008 — P Jon Ryan.
2010 — RB Michael Robinson; C Clint Gresham; C Lemuel Jeanpierre.
2011 — S Chris Maragos; LB Heath Farwell; LB Mike Morgan; G Paul McQuistan; WR Doug Baldwin; WR Ricardo Lockette.
2012 — WR Jermaine Kearse; WR Bryan Walters; CB Deshawn Shead; RB Derrick Coleman.
2013 — OT Alvin Bailey; DE Benson Mayowa; QB Tarvaris Jackson; TE Kellen Davis.
Unrestricted Free Agents
2011 — TE Zach Miller (Oakland).
2013 — DT Tony McDaniel (Miami); DE Cliff Avril (Detroit); DE Michael Bennett (Tampa Bay)
2010 — DE Chris Clemons (Philadelphia); RB Marshawn Lynch (Buffalo).
2011 — DT Clinton McDonald (Cincinnati).
2013 — WR Percy Harvin (Minnesota).
2011 — K Steven Hauschka (Denver).
2013 — LB O'Brien Schofield (Arizona).
2010 — OT Breno Giacomini (Green Bay).
2013 — OT Caylin Hauptmann (Cleveland).